I'm trying to evaluate the effectiveness of a hypothetical research institute developing a drug (or testing existing candidates) that chemically increases subjective wellbeing in healthy people (“giving everybody a drug that makes them 20% happier”), and I’d like your input.
As far as I'm impressed, current EA discussions on the matter of improving subjective wellbeing in healthy population try to either solve it from a therapeutic standpoint or from a transhumanist standpoint (eg. gene modification), and I think the chemical approach is somewhere in the middle - trying to modify people's biological functionality but with existing (or nearly-existing) technologies and in a reversible manner.
I’ve been looking into this lately and have found relatively little informative materials. For example, I’m particularly interested in the following questions:
- How promising are the existing candidate substances: psychedelic microdosing, antidepressants, variants of MDMA, etc.
- Michael Plant's drug policy reform proposal may be a strongly correlated cause in this context.
- Policy risk: to my understanding, western ethics committees review drug trials in a manner that does not allow for drug development for any other purpose other than prevention or treatment of illness. Thus, do we expect sanctions on researchers who would conduct human trials with experimental substances on perfectly healthy people? Will the trials need to be done in loosely regulated countries? I would suspect this to be similar to contemporary psychedelic research but am not familiar with the constraints there.
- Psychological risk of a chemical approach: I am not sure how contemporary research views the risks involved with dependency on a substance for wellbeing - eg. to what extent are unhealthy belief effects expected to emerge?
I’d be interested in any resources that explore this topic of chemically improving subjective wellbeing in healthy population.
David Pierce has written a lot on this topic from a philosophical point of view.
and lots of references to Brave New World’s “Soma” :)